The graduands along with Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, Mark Cullinane; CEO of VYC Goldie Scott; Principal of GTI Renita Duncan and business coach Vishnu DoergaSome 79 young persons on Wednesday graduated from a nine-month technical and vocational skills training programme preparing them for the world of work.The programme, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Community, Family and Youth Resilience (CFYR) initiative, aims to strengthen opportunities for at-risk youth between the ages of 16 – 29 years, to become more marketable and successful in joining the work force.The participating students were from four CFYR-targeted communities in Georgetown: East La Penitence, Lodge, East Ruimveldt, and Sophia’s C, D and E Fields.At Wednesday’s graduation ceremony, Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Youth Corps (VYC) — the organisation that implemented the training programme— Goldie Scott, give a breakdown of the participants. She explained that there was a ratio of 52% female to 48% male participation, adding that only 58 per cent of them had completed high school, while 18.5 per cent received vocational education before and 48 per cent dropped out of school.A staggering 86 per cent of the youths in the training programme are unemployed, while the other 14 per cent are receiving livelihood support. In addition, Scott also disclosed that 6 participants or seven per cent have had brushes with the law in minor offences.To this end, she noted that “The programme designed has taken a holistic approach by offering a holistic package to empower youths with soft and hard skills, while addressing directly their livelihood needs”.During the programme, the first two months were focused on basic life skills training and then the following seven months were competency-based training done in partnership with the Georgetown Technical Institute (GTI), where the participants took and completed courses in data operations, electrical installation and motor vehicle repairs.Principal of GTI Renita Duncan encouraged the participants to enrol at the institution for full courses, telling them that “education doesn’t stop once you graduate”.The completion of the ‘Workforce Development Programme’ now paves the way for the next phase of the project, which is, focusing on the placement of youths. For this, the organisers will be collaborating with the Private Sector to provide employment opportunities.On this note, former President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and business coach, Vishnu Doerga urged the graduands to take advantage of the skills acquired and put them to use so that they can get better at them.“Always remember, now that you’ve been exposed for seven to nine months to a particular skill, you need to practice the skill. If you do not practice the skill, just like knowledge, you could lose it. So make sure the skill you gained, you continue practicing it so that you can then develop it to the final stage where you actually get paid for that skill,” he told the youths.Meanwhile, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, Mark Cullinane, told the graduands that they should be proud of their accomplishments and the impact it will have on not only their lives, but their communities, as well as the country as a whole.“Our hope is that you, as graduates, can take advantage of the opportunity available under the CFYR programme and access sustainable, long-lasting and meaningful employment,” he noted.Cullinane went on to note that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has estimated youth unemployment in Guyana to be almost 23%, while the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has found that 80% of prosecuted crimes here are committed by youths between the ages of 19 and 29.“These are significant development challenges and CFYR hopes to address them in close”.Under the CFYR programme, some 385 young persons have been trained thus far, and 93 were already placed in employment with more to be given job opportunities following Wednesday’s graduation exercise.